Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My Heroes! Filter Fighters!

Last spring I got to meet a cyberfriend and also one of my heroes, Nancy Willard, who came to Texas for our annual library association conference. She speaks out for Internet safety and also for commonsense filtering in K-12 schools. Since I also care deeply about these issues, and since we have communicated for several years online, getting to talk to her in person over coffee was one of the high points of TLA for me last year. Then just yesterday I got an email from another of my heroes, Doug Johnson. He is so generous in his praise for others, and was kind enough to take time and send me a message about a recent article of mine about filtering. Since yesterday I have really been thinking about the importance of communication between like-minded individuals, and how the Internet has played a major part enabling this. I feel fortunate to learn so much from others via listservs like LM_Net and EDTECH, via email, and now from my tweets on Twitter. So hooray for heroes!

One thing Nancy Willard said at her TLA presentation was that she has made up her mind to speak out strenuously for commonsense filtering since she knows that many times teachers, whose jobs are on the line, may not feel that they can express themselves quite so freely. That statement galvanized me! It made me think that I could and should do the same. That led to my article in the September/October issue of Multimedia&Internet@School called "I'm Mad and I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore" about draconian filtering still all to common in schools. In the next issue I will have an article called "Everybody Else is Doing It," which seeks to give people ideas for seeking access based on the fact that so many districts and schools have already jumped on the bandwagon using great Web 2.0 resources.

Today while I was working on an upcoming presentation about filtering, I got to thinking that it might be helpful to offer a list of some people whose presentations and writings can be used by educators in the trenches as they try to get access so kids can benefit from the many great Web 2.0 resources available online. Thus I am starting my heroes list: MA Bell's List of Commonsense Filtering Heroes. I will start off with three names and a bit about each person and will add more in the near future. Maybe readers have suggestions?
  • Nancy Willard, director of the Center For Save and Responsible Internet Use, is the first person that comes to my mind when I think about advocates for sensible filters in schools. She is a lawyer as well as an educator and thus has a two-pronged approach which adds additional import to her contributions. Her many articles on this topic are easily found in databases, blogs, and other sites located by doing a simple search using her name. Also, you can find online information at many sites, foremost being her own: Also listed there are her two books on the topic.
  • Doug Johnson, Director of Media and Technology in the Mankato Schools, MN, is a wonderful presenter and author as well as educator, with a long history or leadership in librarianship and technology. He has a plethora of presentations and articles about filtering and access, and also addresses the topic frequently in his Blue Skunk Blog: For more great information, visit his website at
  • Dr. Barry Bishop, Director of Library Information Services, Spring Branch, TX, is a True Texas Hero! Take a look at the wonderful district website he maintains. This site should be in everybody's tag collection: Last year he took part in a panel discussion at TLA about student access and filtering. His commonsense approach should be adopted by so many other administrators. Seeing his excellent resources should show other leaders the way to move beyond overly restrictive filters.
I know there are many more leaders, and my goal is to add to this list and post a more complete one somewhere for ready reference if someone is looking for experts who champion reasonable filters. Any suggestions?


  1. Great post, Dr. Bell--with great resources--and a little nudge to the rest of us who might be able to present some vital, sensible information to "those who make decisions."

  2. Thanks, Mary Ann, for the kind words.

    This is not a fight that will be won by one or two "heroes," but by a consensus of educators making good decisions on behalf of students. Every voice, loud and and soft, speaking out whenever possible.

    All the best,